GRILLED CHEESE 1

Strasburg resident Lloyd Willis samples tomato soup from the Strasburg Farmers Market during the town’s third annual Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Festival last year.

Strasburg’s Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Festival has taken home the 2020 Virginia Main Street Merit Award for Best Downtown Promotion.

The award is based on a single promotion/event/idea as a whole.

There are a total of seven awards given in five merit areas celebrating excellence in downtown revitalization efforts across the state.

“Virginia’s Main Street organizations are continuing to transform our downtowns into vibrant communities through downtown revitalization, entrepreneurial support and innovative events that highlight what makes each community unique,” said Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development Director Erik Johnston. “These winners are shining examples of how to do community development right and are on the front lines assisting our Main Streets and their businesses through the COVID-19 recovery and reopening process.”

Strasburg’s festival, which is held annually downtown in November, offers the chance for participants to sample multiple grilled cheese and tomato soup combinations from downtown restaurants. Participants then vote for their favorite combination.

“For me, it’s cool to see people come visiting our small community, not only for the delicious grilled cheese but they fall in love with it and visit our businesses,” Olivia Hilton, the town’s community development coordinator, said. “I think we’re over the moon pretty impressed with how it’s grown, especially the business participation. People get very excited about it, both locals and visitors.”

Local businesses take part in the festival, too, offering giveaways, treats, face painting, crafts and more.

The event also typically features live music.

“Strasburg’s Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup festival celebrates the classic pairing of two favorite foods but more so celebrates the wonderfully personalities and businesses that we have in our community,” Hilton said.

Last year, Hilton estimated 20,000 ounces of soup and thousands of samples of grilled cheese sandwiches were served before the day was over.

Currently, his year’s fourth-annual event is slated for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 7. The Strasburg Square is to serve as the hub for the event. Folks can register to participate in one of two shifts — either 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Hinton said guidelines could look different but the event is still expected to be held.

Adult tickets for the event are $10. Kids age 2-12 are free, but they must be registered to receive an entry wristband. Only 400 youth tickets will be available. Tickets will go on sale Oct. 1 but some local tickets may be available earlier at a discount.

The event is typically held rain or shine, warm weather or cold.

— Contact Matt Welch at mwelch@winchesterstar.com